December 2019-January 2020 | Regulars

The gift of time

The gift of time

Rotary in Great Britain and Ireland President, Donna Wallbank, reflects on some simple gestures we can all make during the festive period to make a difference.

At this time of year, we are planning what gifts we will give our family and friends. We’re thinking of what we will cook, who we are inviting to join us and when is the best time to have a party.

We have the date in our diaries for the Christmas services, the school nativities of our children, grandchildren or great grandchildren!

We wake in panic – well I do – thinking: “Have I bought enough, have I forgotten anyone?” This year I will do all the above yet again, despite knowing I should not!

In truth, we need not make the fuss, worry or panic, because we are fortunate. We have, a roof over our heads, food in cupboards and family members to be proud of. People who care, value and love us for who we are, not for what we own or can give them.

You will dress your tree and watch the twinkling lights, the decorations hanging may have a personal meaning.

My new tree decorations are made from tin-can ring pulls taken from a waste tip, where no-one would want to live or work.

Your time is as valuable, but could you make time to sit and speak to someone who you do not know – just once in December?”

When I see my twinkling lights this Christmas Eve, I will be grateful that my family have that roof, food and love.

But a simple purchase may have made a difference, not just to the planet which needs us to recycle and consider sustainability but, importantly, to the person making those items.

Someone who is maybe not living on that rubbish tip today because of this new opportunity.

I will have friends, family and colleagues to talk to, clients sharing their thoughts all through the month and I will be surrounded by noise and excitement. How incredibly lucky am I?

Earlier this year, I met an elderly homeless lady, who I had seen a few days before. My husband Steve and I had taken some warm food, drink and toiletries to her. She thanked us for our kindness.

We sat and spoke for less than 15 minutes about nothing in particular. As we left, she thanked us enthusiastically, telling us how few people stop to speak to her because of how she looks.


According to figures from Homeless Link, it is estimated as many as 4,600 people are sleeping rough on any one night, with the number of rough sleepers increasing by 165% between 2010 and 2018.

It meant more to her that we gave her our time not measuring her plight negatively.

Sitting with that lady on that day, was easy. Nothing was calling me. But do we make enough free time in our busy lives?

Would five minutes a day be too much to ask, or 15 minutes once a week, to talk to someone who would otherwise remain ignored.

Your time is as valuable, but could you make time to sit and speak to someone who you do not know – just once in December?

Make it a gift to yourself as someone who you may normally pass. Your coin is not as valuable as the time you will take to value them as a human being. It is about the time you take to speak to them or to recognise their dog, since the dog may be the only thing who loves and needs them.

Your actions and time will be meaningful.

I wish you and yours season’s greetings. For the gift of time that you give in Rotary service, I thank you, wishing you a healthy, happy and rewarding 2020.


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